Review: Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1)

Title: Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1)
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Middle Grade, Horror
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think—she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.


Eleven-year-old Ollie finds a woman about to throw a book into a river, so Ollie steals it before it can be destroyed. The book tells a story about a family who made a deal with “the smiling man,” who grants huge wishes for even larger prices. Then, Ollie goes on a school trip to a farm which turns out to be owned by the woman from the river. While her class is leaving the farm, their school bus is trapped in a mist. Ollie’s broken watch tells her to run and begins a countdown. She escapes the bus with two other students Coco and Brian. They end up in an alternate world where the story about “the smiling man” is true. The three friends must escape creepy scarecrows and get back to their home without making a dangerous deal.

Ollie was a big reader and there were lots of references to classic children’s novels. Two books that were compared to their situation were Alice in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia. In both of those stories, the children are transported to a fantasy world. The only difference in this one was that this was a creepy and scary world, rather than whimsical.

This was quite a creepy story. It would be perfect for fall since it’s set in a forest and a farm. There was also a corn maze and lots of terrifying scarecrows. I will never look at scarecrows the same way again!

Small Spaces is a creepy middle grade novel!

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

The Hiddenseek by Nate Cernosek

Other books in the series:

  • Dead Voices
  • Dark Waters

Have you read Small Spaces? What did you think of it?


Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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